If you've been paying any attention at all to the whole net neutrality fight, you'd know that the key issue is whether or not broadband services should be reclassified under Title II
of the Telecom Act. In the early to mid-2000s, the FCC declared both cable and DSL broadband to be information services under Title I, rather than telecommunications services under Title II. This basically means they are not subject to common carrier rules, including non-discriminatory rules that are the key issue around net neutrality. And, of course, the telcos are putting up a big fight over this, listing out a supposed parade of horribles
that would happen if they were reclassified under Title II.
There's just one big problem with this: those very same telcos with those very same networks
are begging to have them classified under Title II
at other times. Basically, the telcos absolutely love Title II
when it gives them all sorts of subsidies and tax breaks.
Here, for example, you can see Verizon making it quite clear that its FiOS fiber service should be classified under Title II
in New Jersey.
They've done the same elsewhere. Here they are in DC
The reasoning here is simple to understand. For all the talk of why they hate Title II, Verizon (and AT&T) know that Title II gives them tremendous subsidies
in the form of access and rights of way
. Basically, the only way they can get the right to rip up the ground or access existing conduits and electrical poles to lay all that fiber -- is to be classified as a common carrier under Title II. So a bunch of Verizon's applications concerning its FiOS service are entirely about why they should be classified as Title II.
But here's the little dance move they pull. They claim that this infrastructure
must be considered Title II, in order to get those subsidies, tax breaks and rights of way. And they insist that it's proper to classify it as Title II because it offers voice service
over those lines. But, at the very same time, they claim that all other services
that they provide, must be classified under Title I.
Oh, and it gets better: they claim that in order to pay for all of this (even though they're getting all these breaks and subsidies), they have to raise the prices
on telephone service -- which they've done at a fairly astounding rate
And, we're not done with the scam yet. As we've been describing for years
, part of this shell game is that Verizon promises that, under Title II, it will install this fiber to everyone -- and then never delivers
. And then, for the final kick in the gut, after it fails to deliver on those promises, it gets local politicians to drop the requirements
it agreed to in order to get the subsidies.
And... this doesn't even touch on the issue of "IP transition," where after they get all these tax breaks and subsidies based on the claims of providing (increasingly expensive) "voice" services under Title II, the very same telcos will want to turn off that voice service
, in favor of voice service over the internet. Now, voice services are clearly moving to the internet, and that's reasonable. But this is part of the telco shell game. Get all these tax breaks and subsidies by pretending all of that fiber was a Title II service, but then shut down the Title II covered-telco service the first chance they get, and shift it to an "information" service under Title I. Voila: they get all the tax breaks and benefits of Title II for installing the infrastructure, but then don't have to meet the obligations of a common carrier which they promised to meet in order to get those subsidies.
It's almost astoundingly brilliant if we weren't all left paying the (increasingly larger) bill for worse service.
Either way, whenever you see the telcos listing out the parade of horribles under Title II, it might be worth reminding them that they, themselves, were the ones who insisted on classifying their own networks under Title II because of all the "benefits" it brought.